Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Barbara Bush: Advocate for literacy and the brain

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who died on Tuesday, was a strong advocate for reading and literacy. During her time at the White House, Mrs. Bush encouraged reading and writing among Americans. In 1989, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. The foundation started a new children’s program, My Home Library,” last year, but campaigned to increase the literacy rate of adults as well. Reading is crucial to learning and educational achievement. Reading profoundly supports brain health, through all stages of life. To honor Mrs. Bush’s legacy, we present the following article, “The Reading Brain: How Your Brain Helps You Read, and Why it Matters.”


Adapted from The Reading Brain: How Your Brain Helps You Read, and Why it Matters
by Martha Burns, Ph.D


If you’re reading this, you’re probably an accomplished reader. In fact, you’ve most likely forgotten by now how much work it took you to learn to read in the first place. And you probably never think about what is happening in your brain when you’re reading that email from your boss or this month’s book club selection.

And yet, there’s nothing that plays a greater role in learning to read than a reading-ready brain.

As complex a task as reading is, thanks to developments in neuroscience and technology we are now able to target key learning centers in the brain and identify the areas and neural pathways the brain employs for reading. We not only understand why strong readers read well and struggling readers struggle, but we are also able to assist every kind of reader on the journey from early language acquisition to reading and comprehension—a journey that happens in the brain.


Read about your brain!


We begin to develop the language skills required for reading right from the first gurgles we make as babies. The sounds we encounter in our immediate environment as infants set language acquisition skills in motion, readying the brain for the structure of language-based communication, including reading.

Every time a baby hears speech, the brain is learning the rules of language that generalize, later, to reading.  Even a simple nursery rhyme can help a baby's brain begin to make sound differentiations and create phonemic awareness, an essential building block for reading readiness. By the time a child is ready to read effectively, the brain has done a lot of work coordinating sounds to language, and is fully prepared to coordinate language to reading, and reading to comprehension.

The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain working together, like sections of instruments, to maximize our ability to decode the written text in front of us.
….
It’s never too early to set a child on the pathway to becoming a strong reader. And it’s never too late to help a struggling reader strengthen his or her brain to read more successfully and with greater enjoyment.










Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April Is Autism Awareness Month: Part II: Causes

Causes and Risk Factors

While scientists don’t know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others don’t, some risk factors include:
  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions—people with conditions such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome are more likely than others to have ASD
  • Very low birth weight

Diagnosing ASD

Doctors diagnose ASD by looking at a person’s behavior and development. ASD can usually be reliably diagnosed by the age of two. It is important for those with concerns to seek out assessment as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be made, and treatment can begin.

Diagnosis in Young Children

Diagnosis in young children is often a two-stage process.

Stage 1: General Developmental Screening During Well-Child Checkups

Every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight.
Get the basics of the brain, in easy-to-read language.

Parents’ experiences and concerns are very important in the screening process for young children. Sometimes the doctor will ask parents questions about the child’s behaviors and combine those answers with information from ASD screening tools, and with his or her observations of the child. Read more about screening instruments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Children who show developmental problems during this screening process will be referred for a second stage of evaluation.

Stage 2: Additional Evaluation

This second evaluation is with a team of doctors and other health professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD.
This team may include:
  • A developmental pediatrician—a doctor who has special training in child development
  • A child psychologist and/or child psychiatrist—a doctor who has specialized training in brain development and behavior
  • A neuropsychologist—a doctor who focuses on evaluating, diagnosing, and treating neurological, medical, and neurodevelopmental disorders
  • A speech-language pathologist—a health professional who has special training in communication difficulties
The evaluation may assess:
  • Cognitive level or thinking skills
  • Language abilities
  • Age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently, such as eating, dressing, and toileting
Because ASD is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders, the comprehensive evaluation may include:
  • Blood tests
  • Hearing test
The outcome of the evaluation will result in a formal diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.
Source: NIH

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Is Autism Awareness Month. Understanding the basics, Pt.1.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:
  • Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
  • Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
  • Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.

Signs and Symptoms of ASD

People with ASD have difficulty with social communication and interaction, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. The list below gives some examples of the types of behaviors that are seen in people diagnosed with ASD. Not all people with ASD will show all behaviors, but most will show several.

Learn about the developing brain, in easy-to-read language. 

Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:
  • Making little or inconsistent eye contact

  • Tending not to look at or listen to people

  • Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others

  • Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention

  • Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation

  • Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond

  • Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said

  • Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
  • Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions

Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:

  • Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia

  • Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts

  • Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects

  • Getting upset by slight changes in a routine

  • Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
People with ASD may also experience sleep problems and irritability. Although people with ASD experience many challenges, they may also have many strengths, including:
  • Being able to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time

  • Being strong visual and auditory learners

  • Excelling in math, science, music, or art

Causes and Risk Factors

While scientists don’t know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. Although scientists are still trying to understand why some people develop ASD and others don’t, some risk factors include:
  • Having a sibling with ASD
  • Having older parents
  • Having certain genetic conditions—people with conditions such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome are more likely than others to have ASD
  • Very low birth weight

Diagnosing ASD

Doctors diagnose ASD by looking at a person’s behavior and development. ASD can usually be reliably diagnosed by the age of two. It is important for those with concerns to seek out assessment as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be made, and treatment can begin.

Diagnosis in Young Children

Diagnosis in young children is often a two-stage process.

Stage 1: General Developmental Screening During Well-Child Checkups

Every child should receive well-child check-ups with a pediatrician or an early childhood health care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays at their 9-, 18-, and 24- or 30-month well-child visits and specifically for autism at their 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for ASD or developmental problems. Those at high risk include children who have a family member with ASD, have some ASD behaviors, have older parents, have certain genetic conditions, or who were born at a very low birth weight.
Parents’ experiences and concerns are very important in the screening process for young children. Sometimes the doctor will ask parents questions about the child’s behaviors and combine those answers with information from ASD screening tools, and with his or her observations of the child. Read more about screening instruments on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Children who show developmental problems during this screening process will be referred for a second stage of evaluation.

Stage 2: Additional Evaluation

This second evaluation is with a team of doctors and other health professionals who are experienced in diagnosing ASD.
This team may include:
  • A developmental pediatrician—a doctor who has special training in child development
  • A child psychologist and/or child psychiatrist—a doctor who has specialized training in brain development and behavior
  • A neuropsychologist—a doctor who focuses on evaluating, diagnosing, and treating neurological, medical, and neurodevelopmental disorders
  • A speech-language pathologist—a health professional who has special training in communication difficulties
The evaluation may assess:
  • Cognitive level or thinking skills
  • Language abilities
  • Age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently, such as eating, dressing, and toileting
Because ASD is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders, the comprehensive evaluation may include:
  • Blood tests
  • Hearing test
The outcome of the evaluation will result in a formal diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

Source: NIH

Saturday, March 31, 2018

More sex, better brain function

More frequent sexual activity has been linked to improved brain function in older adults, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford.
Source: AARP
Researchers found that people who engaged in more regular sexual activity scored higher on tests that measured their verbal fluency and their ability to visually perceive objects and the spaces between them.
The study, published today in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, involved 73 people aged between 50 and 83.
Participants filled in a questionnaire on how often, on average, they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months -- whether that was never, monthly or weekly -- as well as answering questions about their general health and lifestyle.
The 28 men and 45 women also took part in a standardized test, which is typically used to measure different patterns of brain function in older adults, focusing on attention, memory, fluency, language and visuospatial ability.
Learn about your brain in easy-to-understand language.

This included verbal fluency tests in which participants had 60 seconds to name as many animals as possible, and then to say as many words beginning with F as they could -- tests which reflect higher cognitive abilities.
They also took part in tests to determine their visuospatial ability which included copying a complex design and drawing a clock face from memory.
It was these two sets of tests where participants who engaged in weekly sexual activity scored the most highly, with the verbal fluency tests showing the strongest effect.
The results suggested that frequency of sexual activity was not linked to attention, memory or language. In these tests, the participants performed just as well regardless of whether they reported weekly, monthly or no sexual activity.
This study expanded on previous research from 2016, which found that older adults who were sexually active scored higher on cognitive tests than those who were not sexually active.
But this time the research looked more specifically at the impact of the frequency of sexual activity (i.e. does it make a difference how often you engage in sexual activity) and also used a broader range of tests to investigate different areas of cognitive function.
The academics say further research could look at how biological elements, such as dopamine and oxytocin, could influence the relationship between sexual activity and brain function to give a fuller explanation of their findings.
Lead researcher Dr Hayley Wright, from Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, said:
"We can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements -- but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this.
"Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a 'cause and effect' relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people.
"People don't like to think that older people have sex -- but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general wellbeing."


Story Source:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

One character not returning to Roseanne reboot

One actor not returning to the cast of the revived Roseanne show, is Mark, the boyfriend/husband of Becky.
Glenn Quinn died from a heroin overdose in 2002.



Best known for his portrayal of Mark Healy on the popular '90s family sitcom Roseanne, Quinn also amassed a large fan base for his portrayed of Doyle, a half-demon, on Angel, a spin-off series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
www.healingthebrainbooks.com
Your guide to the brain and addiction
Glenn Quinn.jpg

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Male contraception pill: It's a brain thing

Generally speaking, hormones control the growth, development, and metabolism of the body; the electrolyte composition of bodily fluids; and reproduction.

A once-daily capsule safely suppressed reproductive hormones in men, making it an appealing candidate for a male birth control pill, according to a small study.

Your remarkable brain in easy-to-understand language.


After about a month of treatment, a new prototype pill called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, had reduced levels of hormones including testosterone that are necessary for sperm production. During that time, none of the 83 men who completed the treatment suffered troubling symptoms that can arise with a dramatic drop in testosterone, researchers reported March 18 at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

“Scientists have been working on a male contraceptive for decades,” says Monica Laronda, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who was not involved in the research. “DMAU shows great promise.” Surveys show that many men are interested in forms of contraception besides condoms and vasectomies, she says, and men “would prefer a pill.” Other methods, including topical gels, are also being developed.

A plethora of hormones regulate many of the body’s functions, including growth and development, metabolism, electrolyte balances, and reproduction. Numerous glands throughout the body produce hormones. 

The hypothalamus produces several releasing and inhibiting hormones that act on the pituitary gland, stimulating the release of pituitary hormones. Of the pituitary hormones, several act on other glands located in various regions of the body, whereas other pituitary hormones directly affect their target organs. Other hormone-producing glands throughout the body include the adrenal glands, which primarily produce cortisol; the gonads (i.e., ovaries and testes), which produce sex hormones; the thyroid, which produces thyroid hormone; the parathyroid, which produces parathyroid hormone; and the pancreas, which produces insulin and glucagon. Many of these hormones are part of regulatory hormonal cascades involving a hypothalamic hormone, one or more pituitary hormones, and one or more target gland hormones. 


For the body to function properly, its various parts and organs must communicate with each other to ensure that a constant internal environment (i.e., homeostasis) is maintained. For example, neither the body temperature nor the levels of salts and minerals (i.e., electrolytes) in the blood must fluctuate beyond preset limits. Communication among various regions of the body also is essential for enabling the organism to respond appropriately to any changes in the internal and external environments. 

Two systems help ensure communication: the nervous system and the hormonal (i.e., neuroendocrine) system. The nervous system generally allows rapid transmission (i.e., within fractions of seconds) of information between different body regions. Conversely, hormonal communication, which relies on the production and release of hormones from various glands and on the transport of those hormones via the bloodstream, is better suited for situations that require more widespread and longer lasting regulatory actions. Thus, the two communication systems complement each other. In addition, both systems interact: Stimuli from the nervous system can influence the release of certain hormones and vice versa. 


Source: NIH

Saturday, March 17, 2018

5 celebrities we've lost to drugs


Which Celebrities Have Battled with Addiction?

Addiction affects everyone, but the tragic stories of celebrity overdoses affect the millions of fans who were entertained or inspired by their work. Drugs have claimed the lives of countless stars, but some celebrities survived their brush with addiction, sought treatment and are in recovery today.
No person is immune to addiction or its consequences. When celebrities abuse alcohol or other drugs, they’re at the same risk for developing substance use disorders as everyone else.
Their actions, and the consequences of their actions, are displayed in magazines, on TV and on the internet. When a celebrity checks into rehab or overdoses from a drug, the public knows. The constant reporting of celebrity drug use can make it seem like addiction is more common in Hollywood than in the rest of the world.
But celebrities have the same anatomies as everyone else. The percentage of celebrities who suffer from addiction is likely similar to that of the general public.
Source: Drugabuse.com

Prince, Fentanyl.


Amy Winewouse, Alcohol Intoxication.


Health Ledger, Prescription Drugs.




Jimi Hendrix, Barbiturate Overdose.




Whitney Houston, Cocaine and multiple other drugs.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Daylight Saving: Suggestions to help adapt to the time change


DaylightSavingsTimeWeb
By moving the clocks ahead one hour in the Spring, we lose one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour earlier. This pushes most people to have a one hour earlier bedtime and wake up time. In the Fall, time moves back one hour.  We gain one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour later thereby pushing most people to have a one hour later bedtime and wake up time.

Learn more about the brain here.
It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity (Harrision, 2013). Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes. Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013). A study by Kirchberger and colleagues (2015) reported men and persons with heart disease may be at higher risk for a heart attack during the week after the time changes in the Spring and Fall.
The reason for these problems is thought to be disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep. Circadian rhythms are daily cycles of numerous hormones and other body functions that prepare us for the expected times for sleeping, eating, and activity. Circadian rhythms have difficulty adjusting to an abrupt one hour time change.
Other hazards for workers related to the time change in the Fall include a sudden change in the driving conditions in the late afternoon rush hour– from driving home from work during daylight hours to driving home in darkness. People may not have changed their driving habits to nighttime driving and might be at somewhat higher risk for a vehicle crash. Additionally, the Spring time change leads to more daylight in the evening which may disturb some people’s sleep.
To help reduce risks about one and a half weeks before the time changes in the Fall and Spring, employers can relay these points to help their workers.
  • Remind workers that several days after the time changes are associated with somewhat higher health and safety risks due to disturbances to circadian rhythms and sleep.
  • It can take one week for the body to adjust sleep times and circadian rhythms to the time change so consider reducing demanding physical and mental tasks as much as possible that week to allow oneself time to adjust.
  • Remind workers to be especially vigilant while driving, at work, and at home to protect themselves since others around them may be sleepier and at risk for making an error that can cause a vehicle crash or other accident.
  • Research found men and people with existing heart disease may be at risk for a heart attack after the time change.
  • Workers can improve their adaptation to the time change by using these suggestions (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2013). Circadian rhythms and sleep are strongly influenced by several factors including timing of exposure to light and darkness, times of eating and exercise, and time of work. One way to help the body adjust is to gradually change the times for sleep, eating, and activity.
Source: CDC/Claire Caruso, PhD, RN, FAAN